Cadillac, Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge and Mitsubishi all spent tons of money advertising their vehicles during CBS' seven-hour Super Bowl broadcast on Sunday, Feb. 1. But they probably didn't spend the $2.25 million asking price for each 30-second commercial.
That's because as big advertisers they get special discounts or have negotiated a special rate. Still, the carmakers likely spent about $2 million per spot - about $67,000 per second.
The Super Bowl is the advertising showcase of the year, but is it worth the price? Consumers and media executives think advertisers pay too much for Super Bowl commercials, according to a new survey.
Just under 66 percent of consumers surveyed by research firm InsightExpress LLC of Stamford, Conn., do not think Super Bowl advertising is worth the price charged. Seventy-five percent of media buying and planning execs think the commercials are overpriced.
But both consumers and ad executives agree that Super Bowl spots are more effective than other TV programming. One reason: Studies show that 50 percent of Super Bowl viewers watch mainly for the commercials.
How good were the car advertisements during this year's Super Bowl? My previews of Ford and Cadillac spots found them to be artistic triumphs but marketing flops. Let's say they fumbled on the goal line.
Ford's 'pace car'
In the second half of 2003 Ford Motor Co. launched a gigantic advertising campaign - $100 million in media alone - for F-150 trucks. Much of the money was spent advertising during NFL football games. How did the automaker crown its football assault? Ford used its best eye-candy, the new GT.
Ford calls the GT "the pace car for an entire company" - a heavy responsibility for a 500-hp, street-legal racing car with a limited production run.
Two commercials were produced - a 30-second teaser and a 60-second pedal-to-the-metal racetrack run. But they ran only during the pre-game and post-game shows.
The teaser is a good one. It begins subtly with the rear of the $139,995 GT lit dramatically against a black backdrop. The car's outline is discernible, and the tail and brake lights are flashing. The viewer hears the GT's deep, throaty roar.
Through a series of quick-cuts, fleeting images of bright red metal and components are seen. The commercial ends with the words "It's the one" in white type over black.
The other Ford commercial was photographed on a California track. The GT is traveling at tremendous speeds.
This is a well-produced and skillfully directed commercial. It features stylish, exciting cinematography enhanced with audio. The hi-rev and high frequency, big-decibel car engine and exhaust sounds mixed with screeching, squealing tires are an outstanding example of post editing.
But there are so many twists and turns, that even with different camera angles - high, low, overhead, in-car, camera car, chopper - the commercial becomes repetitious.
As the GT makes its way around the track, three questions are asked by the somber voiceover, all timed to the shifting of gears.
Special effects are the star in this Cadillac commercial.
Finally the viewer is asked: "In what gear do you know it is the one?"
Then: "Introducing the Ford GT. This is the one."
The commercial ends with the Ford logo and the line, "The pace car for an entire company."
This is an ambitious, highly creative commercial from Ford and its agency J. Walter Thompson. The spot appeals to visual and aural senses, but achieve its objective of selling Ford cars. The GT is the wrong model to serve as the brand's "pace car."
'Turbulence' by Cadillac
General Motors' resurgent Cadillac brand was the official vehicle of the Super Bowl. Cadillac sponsored 16 separate events in Houston the week of the game.
For example, it made 435 Cadillacs available for use by the National Football League and VIPs, and it sponsored the game's most valuable player award. Four new Cadillac commercials aired with the championship game's broadcast: a 60-second commerical called "Turbulence" during the game and three 30-second spots in the post-game coverage.
The 60-second commercial continues the successful "Break Through" theme that Cadillac has used since 2002. The CTS-V, Escalade, SRX and XLR are featured in an imaginative computer-generated world.
The commercial is set in a barren desert. A small, bright light is seen on the horizon, racing toward the foreground at tremendous speed. The car breaks through an invisible barrier of air, as if shattering the speed of sound. It is a CTS-V.
Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" is the Cadillac brand anthem. The voiceover is delivered by actor Gary Sinise.
On one level, the commercial works. It presents several cars and maintains the continuity of the "Break Through" theme.
But the dazzling special effects failed to make an emotional connection. It is too much of a good thing. It's over the top and confusing. What does it have to do with Cadillac?
'Soap' by Chevrolet
Chevrolet ran three 30-second commercials during the Super Bowl. One of them might be the first laugh-out-loud Chevy TV advertisement I have seen.
The commercial opens with 10 children, each with a bar of soap in their mouth. Cut from the cute kids to a guy walking to his bright yellow SSR. The roof retracts to turn the SSR into a convertible.
Cut to a different child, a young boy standing with his mom watching the metamorphosis take place. The kid's eyes open wide and he says, "HOLY SH-".
Now that's funny.